Ok, this is likely the best ride I’ve experienced anywhere, no matter how you rate it. Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel through the front gate. Guests may notice that the cast members (dressed as bellhops) are very solemn and ominous. Throughout the entire queue area in most parks, typical 1930s jazz music can be heard, hauntingly echoing through a cracked, serpentine pathway which leads to the hotel proper. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel, past signs pointing to the stables, bowling green, tennis courts and swimming pools. The queue meanders to the west of the hotel entrance, past disheveled and crumbling statuary and a vine-covered pavilion. Eventually it leads to the lobby from the left. Inside the doors, the Hollywood Tower Hotel appears frozen in time, everything in it draped in decades’ worth of dust and decay. There is a yellowed copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases abandoned near the front desk, a long-extinguished fireplace, an unfinished game of Mahjong at a table accompanied by a few rancid cocktails, a concierge desk with a hat and cane left behind,a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers acting as the centerpiece of the lobby, and what appears to be an elegant couple’s dinner, with the last bottle of champange still unopened.
Behind the front desk is the elevators, one of which its sliding doors partially detached from their grooves. A sign in front of the elevator still reads “Out of Order.” Everything in the hotel has apparently been preserved and left undisturbed ever since it closed that fateful night all those years ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready, in the meantime, guests are ushered into the hotel library. The library is home to not only books, but also the hotel’s collection of antiques and exotic curiosities, an old television set, and various pieces of Twilight Zone memorabilia scattered about the room. Through the window, guests may observe a fierce thunderstorm raging outside.
With a bolt of lightning the power suddenly goes out, save for the television which crackles into life, apparently of its own accord. The opening sequence of Season 4 of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly “lost” episode hosted by Rod Serling. Serling fills in some of the blanks regarding the closure of the Hollywood Tower Hotel back in 1939. The episode shows the hotel on that night all those years ago. A ferocious thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where four guests accompanied by a hotel bellhop board the elevator. The elevator ascends normally at first, but then lightning strikes the hotel, causing an entire wing and the guests to vanish Bringing the episode back to the present, Serling comments the particular evening’s weather is eerily similar to the one on the night the five people disappeared. He also refers to the one elevator in the hotel still in working condition, which is the maintenance service elevator located in the basement boiler room. He invites the guests, if they dare, to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The television then shuts off and is followed by a brief moment of darkness.
With that, a back exit from the library opens. The guests exit into and move through the boiler room, past quietly humming boilers, furnaces and engines, at the end of which they are placed upon a row to stand on a marker of their choice, awaiting the service elevator’s arrival. This is the idea:
There seemed to be quite a number of gaily attired hotel guests the day we were there…
But we waited in line anyhow…
Our library bellhop, Elizabeth was particularly scary and added greatly to the sense of foreboding leading up to the ride.
The technical workings of the ride are phenomenal–The ride system of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios employs specialized technology developed specifically for Disney, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cabs are self-propelled automated ride vehicles, termed “AGV” for autonomous guided vehicle, which lock into separate vertical motion cabs. The cabs can move into and out of elevators horizontally, move through the “Fifth Dimension” scene, and on to the drop shaft.
In order to achieve the weightless effect the Imagineers desired, cables attached to the bottom of the elevator car pull it down at a speed slightly faster than what a free-fall in gravity would provide. Two enormous motors are located at the top of the tower. The motors are 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, 35 feet (11 m) long, and weigh 132,000 pounds. They are able to accelerate 10 tons at 15 times the speed of normal elevators. They generate torque equal to that of 275 Corvette engines and reach top speeds in 1.5 seconds.
After the elevator cab has completed the ride, it propels itself to the unload dock and then back to the show shaft. The ride exceeds 30 mph VERTICALLY. You really need seat belts for this ride!